One of the key discoveries of neuroscience in the late 20th and early 21st centuries is the extraordinary malleability of the human brain throughout the life span. Neuroplasticity—the ability of even an adult brain to change firing patterns and regenerate neurons in response to experience—is yet another aspect of settled human knowledge that is being ignored in the rush to diagnose children and adolescents as transgender and in need of medical intervention.
But you don’t even need the latest findings in neuroscience to poke a giant hole in transactivist logic. Long before scientists established that adult brains are so malleable, it has been known that kids’ brains are far more neuroplastic than those of adults. It’s why a child can recover near total function after a brain injury or stroke in a way an adult cannot. It’s why kids become fluent in multiple languages with no “foreign” accent. Their brains have to be plastic–how else could they learn and change throughout childhood?
Those involved in transgender activism and pediatric treatment—who say they have science on their side—have a standard line about puberty blockers, the use of “preferred pronouns,” and all the rest of the childhood gender dysphoria dogma: “It won’t harm the child. Only the truly transgendered will choose medical transition after puberty. The rest (the majority) will choose their natal sex.” (Of course there are no published studies on this, although there is plenty of data showing that most gender dysphoric kids grow up to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual if simply left alone by “gender specialists” and scared parents.)
But the assertion that pediatric gender therapists and MDs are doing no harm (like the rest of the flimsy rationalizations they use) flies in the face of basic, settled neuroscience.
Because of neuroplasticity, those kids who have been “identified as” transgender and treated as the opposite sex throughout childhood will be influenced and molded by that experience (as they are molded by all the other experiences they have). In effect, they will learn the idea that their bodies “don’t match” their gender via their childhood experiences. Unlike any other transient childhood fantasy (e.g., that they are actually Batman), they will be repeatedly validated in the idea that biological reality–their actual bodies–is mistaken, and must eventually be changed to match their subjective feelings. What they think, even how their brains are wired, will be influenced by what they are told, and how they are treated by everyone around them. What would happen if a child with body integrity identity disorder (BIID) was repeatedly validated in the idea that (say) their left leg was “wrong” and should eventually be amputated?
Every other field of science has taken neuroplasticity into account in decisions about best treatment. For the current treatments for gender dysphoric kids to make any sense at all, you have to believe that the brain is fixed, unchangeable from birth, completely impervious to life experience. In other words—the exact opposite of what reams of brain research and clinical experience have taught us in the last several decades.
This antiquated notion of a static brain creates such a huge logical hole in the pediatric transgender rationale, the entire flimsy edifice should eventually collapse if scientists and clinicians ever get the courage to base their treatments and recommendations on actual evidence and science.
Postscript: Think I’m wrong? I’d love to see some researchers step up to do a longitudinal study comparing two groups of adults who were: (1.) Dysphoric kids who were sent to gender therapists and called by their preferred pronouns, given puberty blockers, and otherwise validated in their idea that they are “trapped in the wrong body” and (2.) Dysphoric kids who were supported for just being themselves, regardless of gender stereotypes, as the sex and in the bodies they were born with, with no messaging or validation from “specialists” or parents that they are the opposite sex. How many remain dysphoric as adults and move on to medical transition after childhood?
Who’s recruiting? (Hint: no one.) Time to get started!